The Difference Between a Quartic, and a Quadric

I’ve talked to people who did not distinguish, between a Quartic, and a Quadric.

The following is a Quartic:

y = ax4 + bx3 + cx2 + dx + e

It follows in the sequence from a linear equation, through a quadratic, through a cubic, to arrive at the quartic. What follows it is called a “Quintic”.

The following is a Quadric:

a1 x2 + a2 y2 + a3 z2 +

a4 (xy) + a5 (yz) + a6 (az) +

a7 x + a8 y + a9 z – C = 0

The main reason quadrics are important, is the fact that they represent 3D shapes such as Hyperboloids, Ellipsoids, and Mathematically significant, but mundanely insignificant shapes, that radiate away from 1 axis out of 3, but that are symmetrical along the other 2 axes.

If the first-order terms of a quadric are zero, then the mixed terms merely represent rotations of these shapes, while, if the mixed terms are also zero, then these shapes are aligned with the 3 axes. Thus, if (C) was simply equal to (5), and if the signs of the 3 single, squared terms, by themselves, are:

+x2 +y2 +z2 = C : Ellipsoid .


+x2 -y2 -z2 = C : Hyperboloid .


+x2 +y2 – z2 = C : ‘That strange shape’ .


The way in which quadrics can be manipulated with Linear Algebra is of some curiosity, in that we can have a regular column vector (X), which represents a coordinate system, and we can state the transpose of the same vector, (XT), which forms the corresponding row-vector, for the same coordinate system. And in that case, the quadric can also be stated by the matrix product:

XT M X = C

(Updated 1/13/2019, 21h35 : )

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